I have been wanting to visit the B & O Railroad Museum for some time. If you are a
follower of our travels,
you know I am a trains, planes, and things guy. Love museums and flea markets. Anyway, for the past few years, I
have always been on a time-crunch as I get near this area. Thankfully, this trip I had planned ahead and actually
got off the interstate to visit this museum. Great place, only drawback was that I could not take pictures inside
The B & O Railroad Museum is a museum exhibiting historic railroad equipment in Baltimore, Maryland. Originally named the Baltimore & Ohio Transportation Museum when it opened on July 4, 1953, it has been called one of the most significant collections of railroad treasures in the world with the largest collection of 19th-century locomotives. The museum is located in the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's old Mount Clare Station and adjacent roundhouse, part of the B & O's sprawling Mount Clare Shops site begun in 1829, making it the oldest railroad manufacturing complex in the United States.
Mount Clare is considered to be a birthplace of American railroading, as the site of the first regular railroad passenger service in the country, beginning on May 22, 1830. It was also to this site that the first telegraph message, "What hath God wrought?" was sent on May 24, 1844, from Washington, D.C., using Samuel Morse's invention.
The museum houses artifact collections of 19th- and 20th-century related to America's railroads. The collection includes 250 pieces of railroad rolling stock, 15,000 artifacts, 5,000 cubic feet of archival material, four significant 19th-century buildings, including the historic roundhouse, and a mile of track, considered the most historic mile of railroad track in the United States. To get the real feel of the old days, train rides are offered on the mile of track on Wednesday through Sunday from April through December and weekends in January.
The museum also has an outdoor G-scale layout, an indoor HO scale model, and a wooden model train for children to climb on. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, local model railroad groups set up large layouts on the roundhouse floor and in select locations on the grounds of the museum. The museum store offers a great selection of train-related toys, books, DVDs and other items.
The museum and station were designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1961. In 2008, the Museum won three awards in Nickelodeon's Parents' Picks Awards in the categories of: Best Museum for Little Kids, Best Indoor Playspace for Little Kids, and Best Indoor Playspace for Big Kids. Television and film actor Michael Gross is the museum's "celebrity spokesman".
The inaugural horse-drawn B & O train travelled the 13 miles of the newly completed track from Mount Clare to Ellicott Mills (now Ellicott City, Maryland), on May 22, 1830, the first regular railroad passenger service in the U.S. The existing Mount Clare station brick structure was constructed in 1851. The adjacent roundhouse designed by Ephraim Francis Baldwin was built in 1884 to service the B & O's passenger cars.
For much of its history, the B & O had been collecting locomotives and other artifacts from its history for public relations purposes. This collection was stored in various places, until the railroad decided to centralize it in a permanent home. The car shop of the Mt. Clare Shops was chosen, and the new museum opened on July 4, 1953.
The museum ended up outliving its parent B & O Railroad, and was kept intact by both the Chessie System and CSX Corporation. In 1990, CSX deeded the property and collection to the newly formed, not-for-profit museum organization governed by an independent board of directors and provided it with a $5 million endowment. In 1999, the museum became affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.
In the early morning of February 17, 2003, heavy snow from the Presidents' Day Storm collapsed half of the roof of the museum's roundhouse. Although the structure's central support columns remained standing, the supporting iron struts and ties of the destroyed roofing sections failed under the snow load. The museum suffered heavy damage not only to the roundhouse itself but also to the collection within the roundhouse. Some of the items were damaged beyond repair. Reporting on the devastation the following day, The Baltimore Sun said, "...hours after the collapse, columns of mangled steel stuck out from the roundhouse ... Locomotives and passenger cars in the museum's collection, some dating from the 1830s, could be seen covered with snow and debris." The roundhouse, with a newly repaired roof, reopened to the public on November 13, 2004, with the damaged locomotives and cars were surrounded by a plexiglass barrier. As of September 2015, all damaged exhibits have been restored to their original appearance.
After the roof collapse, subsequent fund raising and restoration allowed the museum to upgrade many of its facilities. In 2005 the museum opened a new service facility west of the roundhouse for restoration of historical equipment and maintenance of active equipment.
Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
B & O Railroad Museum
901 West Pratt Street